Aligning Marketing Strategy with Social Causes
A company’s brand and reputation influence customer perception and there is a growing link between social impact and financial performance. Consequently, companies must take a more strategic approach to secure their bottom-line benefits by aligning their marketing goals with their social objectives to meet the growing demands of consumers, communities, and society-at-large.
According to the 2012 Edelman Good Purpose study, over 64% of global consumers believed that it was no longer enough for corporations to give money and that good causes must be integrated into their business operations. Six years later, another study by Edelman (2018 Earned Brand study) revealed that the same percentage (64%) will buy or boycott a brand because of its position on a social or political issue. This shows that consumers are no longer buying based on their wallets but on their social values as well.
While businesses traditionally give back to society through various philanthropic activities that is often demand-driven and focused on building brand awareness, this is no longer sufficient. Consumers are demanding that businesses do more than give charitable donations, provide sponsorship, engage in employee volunteering, and contribute to nonprofits. Consumers are also looking closely at how a business impacts society and our planet. They want to know what know what the business stands for and they are engaged in responsible business practices.
Businesses acknowledge that they can no longer support social and environmental issues based on personal relationships and preferences of senior management or causes that are not associated with their core business products for fear of being perceived as self-serving. They are now under pressure to take a more strategic approach to corporate giving which is embedded in their corporate strategic and identity.
Cause marketing, also known as cause-related marketing is an effective marketing tool that provides a company with an appropriate tool to align marketing objectives with its social objectives. It supports the company’s objective to promote worthy causes, positively impact society and the environment while increasing brand loyalty and sales. Cause marketing, if conducted successfully, has the potential to bring a brand’s purpose to life. Often called branded philanthropy, it is changing the game of corporate philanthropy.
Cause marketing is not the marketing of causes or marketing of non-profits but integrates social issues into marketing, corporate communications, human resources, and community relations. Cause marketers have no qualms about extracting commercial value from a cause marketing program that is focused on creating positive social impact for the cause they support.
As part of its cause marketing strategy, a company will pick strategic areas of focus that fit its values; select social and environmental issues that support its business goals; choose issues that are related to its products; support issues that provide opportunities to meet its marketing objectives such as increased market share or building a brand identity and evaluate these issues based on social impact. Cause marketing drives long-term corporate partnerships with non-profit organisations and increases participation in campaigns that are branded. Some good examples include the Pampers and UNICEF’s 1 Pack = 1 Vaccine campaign which has funded over 300 million tetanus vaccines globally since 2003; Rimmel and Cybersmile’s campaign against cyberbullying, “I will not be deleted”; Women’s Aid and The Body Shop raised awareness about domestic violence using a mint lip balm which had the slogan “Stop Violence in the Home.”
To be effective, a cause marketing program must be clear about its purpose, how its social goals align with its purpose and, successfully communicates the results of initiatives to their stakeholders.
A well-conceived and successful cause marketing campaign has mutual benefits for all parties. It can improve attitudes towards the company, increase sales and market share, strengthen brand positioning, enhance its corporate image, increase its ability to attract, motivate and retain employees, lower operating costs and increase its appeal to investors. Non-profits, on the other hand, gain increased visibility and enhanced sustainability as a result of the injection of the company’s funds, in-kind contributions and other resources. In addition, the campaign may persuade people to get involved and donate their time and monetary and non-monetary resources to the non-profit partner and the cause.
While cause marketing is becoming standard practice for many companies in developed countries, few Caribbean businesses have adopted this model primarily because they do not understand the concept and, how they can market their business and products while promoting and supporting social causes and non-profit partners. It is time that Caribbean businesses – large, medium, and small – recognise that the game is changing, and consumers’ loyalty is shifting to sustainable brands due to their increasing awareness of social and environmental issues such as climate change. They must take a strategic approach to align their marketing strategy with social causes that mean a lot to their consumers and communities to fulfil their business, financial, marketing and social goals.
For more articles on sustainability and social engagement in the Caribbean, read our latest issue of ApaNa Magazine.
Issue 1 provides a range of technical articles covering the environment, climate change and renewable energy, corporate giving and features nonprofit organisations including CANARI, Junior Achievement Jamaica and RISE St.Lucia Inc